Big Qualicum Regional Trail

Pool at Big Qualicum River Regional Trail, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

A fisherman’s delight – one of the pools along the Big Qualicum

There isn’t anything much better on a warm Summer afternoon than exploring new-to-us territory, so we recently set out to the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery and the many miles of trails that snake along both sides of this lovely spot. By the end of our 1 1/2 hour excursion I found myself wondering why it had taken so long for us to check out this marvellous spot.

Rapids on the Big Qualicum River

Rapids along the Big Qualicum River

The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery proper is dedicated to increasing populations of Pacific Salmon. It is the first of the modern enhancement programs in British Columbia, and serves as the hub for the Rosewall and Little Qualicum facilities. Tours are available for those so inclined, but our goal was to explore the hiking opportunities that abound in the area.

Stump and root of upended old-growth tree at Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

This is the upended root of an old-growth tree that obviously toppled many years ago – there were two large trees growing from it, reaching for the light

It took us a little bit to track down the start of what is known as the Big Qualicum Regional Trail which, essentially, is a 10 kilometre (6 1/4 mile) unused gravel access road that leads almost all the way to the Horne Lake Caves. We discovered a sign leading to the trail to the far right of the spacious parking lot and set off, wondering what the afternoon would bring.

Trail sign on Big Qualicum Regional Trail

Once you actually find the head of the Big Qualicum Regional Trail signage is pretty good

A few minutes out in the sun and dust of the gravel road convinced us to follow the signs for the cooler and shadier Cutthroat Trail, which meanders alongside the river, past small rapids and quiet pools. We paused frequently to admire our surroundings, and eventually came upon a rustic bridge composed of a single long, sturdy log (with, thankfully, rope strung along its length to aid balance and navigation).

Log bridge over Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Two views of the rustic and perfectly serviceable log bridge

Log bridge over Big Qualicum River, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British ColumbiaAcross the bridge we headed along the Steelhead Trail, through shady forest, up and down several sets of well-constructed stairs and along the river bank. The serenity and beauty of this trail is all-encompassing – a lovely retreat. We eventually found our way back to the parking lot after following the trail as it abutted a chain link fence. The pathway isn’t quite as well marked at this stage, a point worth noting. The noise from an excavator working on a hatchery project also indicated that we were getting close to reaching our vehicle.

Wooden stairwell at Big Qualicum Regional Trail, Qualicum Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Good shoes and good knees required for the multiple stairwells

We hiked a total of 5.75 kilometres (3.6 miles) in just over 1 1/2 hours, taking our time to enjoy our surroundings and the quiet beauty of the river and the spawning channels (which, incidentally, are much more ‘natural’ than the set-up at the Little Qualicum Hatchery). This is not a difficult walk, but good shoes (and good knees to traverse the stairwells) are recommended.

Further information on the Big Qualicum Regional Trail can be found at:

The Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery is located in the Qualicum Bay area.

From the Inland Island Hwy (19), take the Horne Lake exit (75). Follow Horne Lake Road until you pass the railroad tracks and take the next left (continuing onto Horne Lake Road). On your immediate left (you will see a Big Qualicum Hatchery sign), turn onto the gravel road (River Road). Follow that down to the hatchery parking lot.

From the Island Hwy (19A), take the exit on Horne Lake Road. Take the first right onto a gravel road (River Road) and continue until you reach the hatchery parking lot.

GPS Co-ordinates for the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery are:

Lat. : 49.393766 Long.: -124.616646

  49° 23′ 37.5576” N124° 36′ 59.9256” W


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

This entry was posted in DOG-FRIENDLY, EAST CENTRAL ISLAND, KID FRIENDLY, SPECIAL PLACES and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *